Conservatives open big lead in advertising 'air wars,' new poll says

Conservative political advertising is being seen by more Canadians than other parties' commercials, according to a new national poll

As the first week of the federal election campaign draws to a close, Conservative political advertising is having a significantly greater impact on Canadians than ads prepared by other parties, according to national poll results released Saturday.

The survey found that 22 per cent voters have seen or heard "a great deal of advertising" from the Conservatives, while 28 per cent said they’d seen a "fair bit" — a total of 50 per cent.  By contrast, Liberal political advertising had reached a total of 29 per cent of Canadians, with just eight per cent saying they’d seen or heard a lot of paid Liberal messages in the media.

Other major political parties show much lower scores in the poll, which was conducted by Canadian Press-Harris/Decima in partnership with the CBC.

Nearly half of those interviewed for the poll (47 per cent) say they’ve seen no advertising at all from the NDP, or the Bloc Quebecois (49 per cent). And 69 per cent hadn’t seen an ad from the Green party.

Across the country, poll respondents in Atlantic Canada, Ontario and British Columbia were more likely to have seen or heard Conservative ads than in other regions.

Women, younger voters and people in urban areas were also more likely to feel the impact of Conservative media campaigns, the survey said.

Tories started earlier

One likely explanation for the Conservative edge in the advertising battle is that the party’s political ad campaigns began before the Oct. 14 federal election was called last Sunday, according to Harris/Decima president Bruce Anderson.

What Anderson calls the "air wars part of this campaign" has just begun, he says, and other parties have not yet engaged with the Conservative head start.

"The fact that the Conservatives have spent heavily, including in the pre-writ period, has been making a difference in their support levels, especially among the audiences they most needed to win over: urban women and younger women," Anderson said.

The most recent Conservative ads have been about childcare and attacks on Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion’s Green Shift plan

That policy is at the centre of the Liberals’ ad campaign so far, with television and radio commercials running for past week. The NDP’s first advertisements decried Harper’s economic policies and put forward party leader Jack Layton as a strong leader for Canada.

The Green party has yet to launch a national television advertising campaign but had prepared commercials for a Montreal byelection that was cancelled when the federal writ was dropped last Sunday.

Bloc Quebecois ads only run in Quebec, where the party fields candidates.

Harris/Decima does daily telephone polling on election issues and party preferences. The survey of the impact of advertising sampled the opinion of a minimum of 1,200 Canadians of voting age and is considered accurate to within plus or minus 2.9 percentage points, 19 times in 20.

National opinion polls released Thursday and Friday showed a clear lead for the Conservatives, with some suggesting a majority government might be within reach of Stephen Harper’s party.